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1. 542 DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Developmental psychology is interested in discovering the psychological processes of development. The three core studies in this section…
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  • 1. 542 DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Developmental psychology is interested in discovering the psychological processes of development. The three core studies in this section all focus on how children develop. Samuel and Bryant's (1984) study is an example of an experiment which attempted to criticise Jean Piaget's cognitive developmental approach to child development. Piaget argued that younger children do not have the capabilities to think in the same way as older children. And, that children have to go through a process of cognitive development in order to achieve the abilities of an older child or adult. Piaget believed that there are a number of stages that all children go through in the same order. Piaget is therefore arguing that these stages are innate. Bandura takes a very different approach to developmental psychology. In his study of aggression, Bandura (1961) demonstrated that children learn development from role models. Bandura's approach is an extension of behavioural theories which emphasise the way we learn behaviour from others, our environment, experiences and so on. Bandura was particularly interested in the way children learn new behaviours through observing and imitating role models. Whereas Piaget was mainly interested in cognitive development and Bandura behavioural development, Freud was interested in emotional development. Freud's psychodynamic approach argued that a child's early experiences will shape its personality in later life. He believed that all children pass through a number of psycho-sexual stages as they develop. Freud's study of Little Hans provides a detailed account of a young boy coming to terms with his emotional conflicts. Freud's emphasis on the early years being important for later development has been extended by psychologists interested in the concept of attachments. Other psychodynamic psychologists such as Bowlby have popularised the ideas that a baby must have an emotional bond with its mother during the first two years of its life. Bowlby argued that if this bond was not developed during this time there would be negative consequences for the child. These consequences would be a lack of social, emotional and intellectual development. 1
  • 2. 542 By the end of this unit you should be able to: Describe and evaluate the developmental approach in psychology; • Describe and evaluate various methodologies used by the • developmental approach; Consider pertinent issues, perspectives and debates, context and • theory, strengths and limitations and the implications of core studies of the developmental approach. Samuel J & Bryant P (1984) Asking only one question in the conservation experiment Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 25: 315-318 Background Samuel and Bryant's experiment is one of many studies which have attempted to challenge Piaget's theory of cognitive development through criticising his methods. It is important that we firstly understand Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Piaget proposed a structuralist approach to child development. He believes that development is a systematic, structured process. Piaget believes that it is not just the amount of knowledge which distinguishes a young child from an older child. There is actually a qualitative difference in their thoughts. To Piaget, changes in the way a child thought about the world signified a change in cognitive or intellectual development. As the child's intellect develops, it becomes increasingly capable of carrying out actions upon its environment which will ensure its survival. Jean Piaget, put forward one of the most influential structuralist theories about how a child’s mind develops. Piaget thought that intellectual development happened in stages, and that a child would only go on to the next stage once it had completely mastered the first one. Each stage is seen as a kind of 'building block' for the next stage to rest on. In each stage, Piaget said, the child would develop new ways of thinking which had developed out of what went before, but which were different from previous ways. 2
  • 3. 542 Piaget outlined four stages of cognitive development, and gave approximate ages at which children reached those stages. He stressed, though, that these ages are only averages; individual children might go through the stages at a different speed but they would always go through the stages in the same order. These maturational stages, in brief, are: 1. Sensory motor stage (birth to around 18 months). During this stage the child gains understanding of its environment by using its senses in combination with movement. 2. Pre-operational stage (18 months to about 7 years). During this stage the child becomes able to represent objects or events by symbols or signs. The child is now able to use language and express ideas. The child is also developing some general rules about mental operations. 3. Concrete operational stage (7 to around 12 years). During this stage the child is able to use more sophisticated mental operations. For example, the child is said to have decentred. Decentring simply means being able to take account of more than one aspect of a situation. However the child is still limited in a number of ways, for example, they tend to think about the world in terms of how it is, and find it hard to speculate on how it might be. 4. Formal operational stage (12 years and above). This stage is mainly governed by formal logic and is the most sophisticated stage of thinking. Piaget devised numerous tests which highlighted the errors children make with certain problems. These errors demonstrated the different quality of thought children have in different stages. One of the most well known tests Piaget used to show the limitations of child thinking in the pre-operational stage was the conservation experiment. In one of his conservation tests Piaget demonstrated that if you show a child two beakers of water, one of which is tall and thin, the other short and fat, and ask the child which beaker contains the most water, the pre- operational child (i.e. child under 7) will say 'the tall one', even though they both contain the same amount of water. Piaget argued that this is because the child has not developed the ability to conserve volume, which does not develop until the child is in the concrete operational stage. 3
  • 4. 542 Conservation of volume is the ability to realise that something may have the same volume, even though it is a different shape. Similarly he demonstrated that if you roll a piece of clay into a sausage shape, show it to a pre-operational child and then roll it into a ball, the child will say that there is more clay in the sausage shape. Piaget also demonstrated that, if you present a pre-operational child with a row of five buttons spread out and a row of five buttons close together, the child will say that the spread-out row contains more buttons. Piaget argued that the inability to conserve is due to the child's failure to understand that things remain the same (constant) despite changes in their appearance (how they look). Piaget believes this is an example of centration. The pre-operational child has not decentred and is therefore centring on just one dimension. For example, the child is centring on just one dimension of the beaker, usually its height, and so fails to take width into account. Piaget’s work has given psychologists many insights into the qualities and limitations of child thought. However, from the late 1970s onwards, there have been many replications of Piaget's methods, which have demonstrated that Piaget often underestimated the cognitive abilities of children. In particular, it is argued that Piaget’s findings were a result of the structure of his original tests rather than the limitation of child thought. Aim The aim of Samuel and Bryant’s study was to challenge Piaget's findings by altering the method used by Piaget. Method Samuel & Bryant used an experimental method and an independent measures design. The participants were 252 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 8.5. They were all in schools and playgroups in and around Crediton, Devon. They were divided into four age groups of 63 children, whose mean ages were; 4
  • 5. 542 5 years 3 months 6 years 3 months 7 years 3 months 8 years 3 months Each group was divided into 3 subgroups which underwent a different condition. The three conditions were: 1 Standard: This is the traditional two question conservation task as carried out by Piaget. The child is asked about the size of the object before and after the shape was changed. 2 One judgement: This is a conservation task like the original but this time with only one question asked the post transformation question. That is, the child is only asked once about the size of the object and this is after the transformation has taken place. 3 Fixed array control: In this condition the child saw no transformation being made and only saw the post-transformation display. That is, the child just saw the objects after they had been changed and not before. The purpose of this third condition was to check that children who answered the post-transformation question correctly in the other two conditions did so by bringing over information from the pre-transformation display. Three different types of material were used for the conservation tasks. (a) Mass: In this task children in conditions 1 and 2 were first shown two equal and identical Playdoh cylinder shapes. The transformation was to squash one of these shapes into a sausage. After this, the children were asked to compare the cylinder and the sausage. The children in condition 3 also made this comparison without seeing the first display or the transformation. (b) Number: In this task children in conditions 1 and 2 were shown two rows of counters of equal length arranged side by side in one to one correspondence. The rows contained six counters. Then one row was 5
  • 6. 542 spread out or bunched up. The condition 3 children saw only the post- transformation displays. (c) Volume: In this task children in conditions 1 and 2 were first shown two identical glasses with the same amounts of liquid. Then the liquid from one glass was poured into a narrower one or a shallow wider one. The condition 3 children saw only the post-transformation displays. Each child was given four trials with each kind of material and the order of the tests was systematically varied between the children. Therefore there are three independent variables. The three conditions, the four age groups and the three kinds of materials used. The dependent variable was the number of errors made by the children. Results The researchers recorded the number of errors children made in the tests. Examples of errors would include when a child said one lump was bigger than the other or one row had more counters than the other, or one glass had more liquid than the other. Age Condition Standard One Question Control 5 8 7 9 6 6 4 6 7 3 3 5 8 2 1 3 The researchers made the following conclusions. 1. As predicted by Samuel and Bryant, children found the one judgement task significantly easier (they made less errors) than the standard conservation task and the fixed-array control. This was true of all three types of material. Samuel and Bryant also found that; 2. There was a significant difference between the age groups, with older groups doing consistently better than the younger. 6
  • 7. 542 3. The children made fewer errors on the number task compared with the other two tasks Conclusions Samuel and Bryant give an explanation for why children make fewer errors on the one judgement conservation task compared to the standard conservation task. They believe that in the standard conservation task, the pre-transformation question is unwittingly forcing the child to give the wrong answer by asking the same question twice (they call this the extraneous reason hypothesis). For example if the child is asked a question about the volume of beakers and then sees the experimenter pour the liquid from one beaker into another, the child might believe that the experimenter must be doing it for a reason and therefore want the child to give a different answer. Samuel and Bryant's experiment and many other studies have challenged Piaget's explanations of conservation by criticising his methods. Samuel and Bryant demonstrate that the tasks used by Piaget actually made it difficult for children to give the correct answers and demonstrate that children below the age of seven can conserve. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development explained how a child’s ability to think progresses through a series of distinct stages as they mature. Piaget believed that these stages were maturational. That is, development is genetic and largely unaffected by environmental factors. However, Samuel and Bryant advocate a cognitive approach to child development. According to this perspective, as children learn more about their world they will adopt new strategies with which to process information. Therefore children who do not demonstrate the ability to conserve have simply not acquired the strategies for this skill or are not applying the skill correctly. Despite this the Samuel and Bryant experiment did demonstrate two findings which support Piaget. Firstly, they found that older children did do significantly better than younger children on the conservation tasks. 8 year olds did significantly 7
  • 8. 542 better than 7 year olds, who did significantly better than 6 year olds, and so on - perhaps supporting Piaget's stage approach. Secondly, they discovered, like Piaget, that children could conserve number before they could conserve mass and volume tasks. Evaluation of Procedure The main strength of Samuel and Bryant’s experiment was the amount of control they had over possible confounding variables. The children had to do four attempts at each conservation task which eliminates the possibility that the children answered incorrectly or correctly by chance, and order effects were controlled for by varying the order of the tasks. A weakness of the number task was that the children could have counted the number of counters used and this could account for the level of accuracy on the number task. A further weakness could have been that the children may have felt nervous doing the tasks (perhaps the younger children more so) and therefore resulted in the answers being spontaneous rather than thought out. Evaluation of Explanation Samuel and Bryant argue that Piaget's theory of cognitive development places too much emphasis on maturational factors. Using a cognitive approach they believe that children learn new strategies and skills. Samuel and Bryant also criticise Piaget for emphasising how children learn as individuals. Samuel and Bryant argue that children do not learn in isolation and that they learn far more readily and efficiently when they are working together than when they are alone. However two of Samuel and Bryant's findings do support Piaget's theory and Piaget's theory is still one the most influential theories of child thought. Of particular value are Piaget’s insights into how children do think about the world qualitatively different to adults. 8
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  • 10. 542 Summary Name of Study Author(s) Approach What were the aims/hypothesis of this study? What was the IV & DV (if any)? What research method was used? List the advantages and disadvantages of the method used Advantages Disadvantages Describe the sample and how it was gathered Outline the procedure 10
  • 11. 542 List the different conditions (if any were used in this study) What controls were used by the researcher? List the findings What kind of data was gathered? (quantitative/qualitative) What was/were the conclusions of this study? 11
  • 12. 542 What have the findings of this study told us about human behaviour? Can any of the following issues be raised in relation to this study? Ethics • Ecological Validity • Quantitative vs. qualitative data • Reliability • Give any alternative method that could be used for this investigation and suggest any changes that might occur in the findings. Bandura A, Ross D & Ross S (1961) Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology 63: 375-382 12
  • 13. 542 Aim The aim of Bandura's study was to demonstrate that if children were passive witnesses to an aggressive display by an adult they would imitate this aggressive behaviour when given the opportunity. Hypotheses The researchers made the following 4 predictions: quot;...subjects exposed to aggressive models will reproduce aggressive acts resembling those of the models...quot; quot;...the observation of non-aggressive models will have a generalised inhibiting effect on the subject's subsequent behaviour...quot; quot;...subjects will imitate the behaviour of a same-sex model to a greater degree than a model of the opposite sex...quot; quot;...boys will be more predisposed than girls towards imitating aggression...quot; Method Bandura, Ross and Ross tested 36 boys and 36 girls aged between 37 to 69 months (mean = 52 months). The role models were one male adult and one female adult. The method was a laboratory experiment. The design of the experiment has three major conditions; the control group, the group exposed to the aggressive model, and the group exposed to the passive model. The children who were exposed to the adult models were further sub divided by their gender, and by the gender of the model they were exposed to. A summary of these groups is shown below. Control Condition 12 boys 12 girls 13
  • 14. 542 Aggressive Model Condition 6 boys with 6 boys with 6 girls with same 6 girls with same sex model opposite sex sex model opposite sex model model Non-Aggressive Model Condition 6 boys with 6 boys with 6 girls with same 6 girls with same sex model opposite sex sex model opposite sex model model This complicated design therefore has three independent variables. The condition the children were exposed to, the gender of the role model and the gender of the child. However, the number of children in each group is quite small (six) and the results could be distorted if one group contained say three children who are normally quite aggressive. For example, if the researchers found that a particular group, such as the 6 boys who were witness to an aggressive display by a male, were the most aggressive this could have resulted because this small group of 6 boys were already the most aggressive children. The researchers attempted to reduce this problem by pre-testing the children for how aggressive they were. They did this by observing the children in the nursery and judged their aggressive behaviour on four 5- point rating scales. It was then possible to match the children in each group so that they had similar levels of aggression in their everyday behaviour. The experiment is therefore an example of a matched pairs design. The observers were the experimenter (female), a nursery school teacher (female), and the model for male aggression. The two observers quot;were well acquainted with the childrenquot;. 14
  • 15. 542 The rating scales were; (a) physical aggression (b) verbal aggression (c) aggression towards inanimate objects (d) aggressive inhibition Each child’s score was obtained by adding the result of the four ratings. To test the inter-rater reliability of the observers, 51 of the children were rated by two observers independently and their ratings compared. These ratings showed a very high reliability correlation (r = 0.89), which suggested that the observers had good agreement about the behaviour of the children. The children were te
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    Jul 23, 2017
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